When Buzz Williams left Marquette for Virginia Tech, most people were puzzled. A man left a program he had wild success with for another that is historically not in the same realm. It’s only surface-level armchair-quarterbacking and second guessing… but it was impossible to ignore in the wake of the move.
Through two years with the Hokies, Williams’ decision has seemed to turn out okay. Most sane minds agreed that if he ever turned Virginia Tech around, it would take a fair amount of time. Yet, things are looking more positive for the program far earlier than most predicted.
After the initial hardships that came with taking over a ho-hum squad, Williams led the Hokies to their first 20-win season season in 2015-’16 since Seth Greenberg accomplished the feat in the 2010-’11 campaign. No, the team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Yes, it can be argued that many of those wins were shallow. Still, this program needed to start somewhere.
Now it is a matter of letting success permeate the program. One solid season was not — and is not — enough to completely steer the VT ship in the right direction. Not only do the Hokies need yet another good run this upcoming season, but they must continue to build a better tomorrow by recruiting.
The year 2017 is becoming a pivotal point in Williams’ tenure with Virginia Tech. If we are to believe recruiting service websites and their rankings, it can be the starting point of the coach taking the Hokies to the next level in both the ACC and on a national scale.
Virginia Tech is already full of impact players heading into this season. We need to note that to avoid the pitfalls that would come with discussing its woeful 2016 recruiting class, which brought just three three-star prospects to the program and was ranked outside the top 80. Yet, there’s good reason for that low rating — there’s not a lot of room on the roster for other impact players.
Williams’ influence can more easily be seen in his 2017 class, which has room for other prime players. The coach has done all he can to make sure he gets as many as top-tier performers as humanly possible.
On Wednesday, point guard Wabissa Bede committed to Virginia Tech. The player’s decision to play for Williams is a significant one. He becomes the second top-100 talent to join the coach’s 2017 recruiting class. In terms relative to the Hokies more than Williams, it is a rather stunning turn of events.
Even better, Williams is apparently recruiting with a plan. Bede will join top-50 shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, building a backcourt of the future in a single recruiting class.
The timing of this couldn’t be better for Williams. Virginia Tech is expected to be more than competitive in the ACC this season. It can be argued that it will not only find its way into the various top 25s at some point this season (and possibly even start within it), but end a decade-long NCAA Tournament appearance drought.
We haven’t even begun to mention that the ACC is getting “older.” While it is still as a deep, tough, and brutal a league as any in the nation, many of its coaching pillars — Roy Williams, Coach K, grumpy uncle Jim Boeheim — are getting the opposite of younger. Even if only indirectly, it is opening the door for Williams to turn the Hokies around quickly, putting them in a position to begin battling near the top of the nation’s toughest conference on an annual basis.
A lot of work still needs to be done. It starts with living up to expectations the team has for the upcoming season. If it does, and Williams continues to win on the recruiting trail, we will begin to stop questioning why he left one solid program for another less spectacular one, and start asking a different one: if Virginia Tech is the future of the ACC.